Friday, May 24, 2013

John Hammond of Watertown, Massachusetts

english origins
John Hammond was born in Lavenham, Suffolk, England, where he was baptized on 2 July 1626 in the parish church called St. Peter and St. Paul. He was the youngest child of William and Elizabeth Paine Hammond, both from Lavenham who left England in the early 1630's for a new 'debt free' life in Watertown in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

In April of 1634 John, aged seven, sailed on the ship the "Francis" from the port of Ipswich with his mother and sisters.  Some weeks later they arrived in Massachusetts, where his father and older siblings were already establishing a new life.  The family eventually settled in Watertown, where John would live for the remainder of his life. 

watertown
Life in Watertown was not easy, especially in the early years.  John's oldest brother William Jr. was killed by Indians in 1636 after he was shipwrecked off Long Island.  He had been on an important trading mission to Virginia  hoping to trade goods for food for the  hungry colonists who were having trouble growing adequate supplies of grain.

John would have lived at home with his parents until he married which he did about 1652 at age 26. A man was either the head of a house or he lived "under family government", he could not live alone and unmarried.  John was to marry three times in his life, and have children with two of them..  His first wife was Abigail Salter, she is my ancestor.  Abigail was the daughter of George Salter and Elizabeth Munning of Suffolk, England.  She had immigrated to Massachusetts with her siblings. Her parents remained in England.
Abigail and John had three children, the first a son named John was born 3 Feb. 1653/4. He was followed by Elizabeth born in 1655 and Abigail born in 1659. John Jr. died in 1659, age 5.  Abigail Salter Hammond died in 1663, leaving John with two small daughters and his nephew Thomas, son of his brother Thomas who had died in 1655. Thomas Jr.'s mother died shortly after his birth leaving him an orphan.

second marriage
John did what most widowers of that age did, he remarried as fast as possible. In March of 1664 he married a young woman, about 21 years old, whose name was Sarah Nichols.  Of their six children only two lived to adulthood.  Sarah died in 1688 aged 45.

children of John and Sarah
Sarah b.  1666 Watertown d. 11 Sept. 1674 age 8
Hannah b. 25 July 1669 d. 18 Feb 1669/70
Hannah b. 25 July 1673 m. John Pulter
Nathaniel b. July 1677 d. Feb 1677/8
Samuel b.  25 Feb 1679/80  died young
Hepzibah b. abt 1681/82 m. William Shattuck 23 Sep. 1708

watertown records reveal
John's name started to appear in the Watertown records about 1656. By then he was a married man with children and beginning to be offered and take on roles in the running and maintenance of the town. His first job was to keep the town hogs in order.  This may seem like a silly sort of job, but it was actually quite important.  Pigs, sheep and cattle and horses could do extensive damage to crops if left to run a muck. He also served as surveyor of fences and cattle.  He once complained at a meeting of the Selectmen that his neighbor wasn't keeping up his fence which divided the properties.  After reviewing the said fence, the Selectmen found both men negligent and told them both to fix it.

The colonist were pretty good about seeing to the needs of their neighbors who fell on hard times, either through age or disability.  John was tasked several times to provide wood, food and clothing for other townspeople, he was reimbursed by the town for doing so. Sometimes the town would work out arrangements allowing a townsman to farm the land of an elderly neighbor in exchange for their care.
John served as town constable and as a Selectman.  He was either referred to as John Hammond or Corporal, Coronet, Lieutenant Hammond.  By 1690, John was apparently the wealthiest man in Watertown, he was charged the highest tax rate that year. He could afford three servants, two white and one black.

contentious neighbors
For a supposedly religious group of people the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony seemed a very contentious bunch and they were quick to take each other to court.  John was no exception.  In 1673 the Whittakers, John and Elizabeth, moved onto a farm adjoining the Hammonds.  This was not the start of a happy relationship.  In April 1676 Elizabeth Whittaker testified in court that John Hammond had hit her husband with a big stick and "threw her down and tread on her stomach and then laughed and jeered at her and bid her husband carry her home in a cart". This assault of the couple seems to have stemmed from an earlier incident in which John Whittaker came into John Hammond's barn and the two men got into a verbal shouting match about fences, sheep and such and ended with John Whittaker attacking John Hammond with a cudgel. 18 year old Abigail Hammond testified that "my father warded off the blow with his pitchfork staff and as he went away Whittaker said to my father 'you devil you, I will be avenged of you one time or another'. "  This squabbling went on until 1678 when the Whittakers finally left town.

third marriage
In November 1689 John married the twice widowed Prudence Wade Crosby Cotton.  Her father had been wealthy as had her first two husbands. Her first husband was a doctor and the second was the Rev. Seaborn Cotton, son of the the Rev. John Cotton who was one of the most influential men in the Colony.  This, I think, says a lot about John Hammond and his position in society.  Prudence would outlive John and be widowed for the third time.

rip
John Hammond died on 22 Nov 1709, he was buried in the Watertown burial grounds.  Prudence died in 1711.


Robert Charles Anderson, Great Migration Begins, 1620-1633
J. G. Bartlett, "Notes and Quires" NEGHR, vol. 57, p. 331
Walter Watkins, "Notes and Queries", NEGHR vol. 55, p. 108
Henry Bond, Genealogies of the Families and Descendants of the Early Settlers of Watertown, Including Waltham and Weston, Boston, 1860
findagrave.com
ancestry.com
Watertown Records Volumes One and Two
Roger Thompson, Divided We Stand, Watertown, Massachusetts 1630-1680, University of Massachusetts Press, 2001 

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